The "Songs of the Century" list is part of an education project by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the National Endowment for the Arts, and Scholastic Inc. that aims to "promote a better understanding of America's musical and cultural heritage" in American schools. Hundreds of voters, who included elected officials, people from the music industry and the media, teachers, and students, were asked in 2001 to choose the top 365 songs (not necessarily by Americans) of the 20th century with historical significance in mind. The voters were selected by RIAA, although only about 15% (200) of the 1,300 selected voters responded.
The list of the top 25 songs, in the order of votes received. Each song is followed by the name of the artist who made the most notable recording of the song.
B. George, director of the ARChive of Contemporary Music, said pop music genres such as electronic dance music, punk rock, and rap were given short shrift. An informal survey of CBS News producers indicated surprise at some of the choices on the list. NPR's Talk of the Nation highlighted songs that were excluded from the RIAA list but were on a similar list produced by NPR the same year. One song that was highlighted was George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"
The tin-pan alley song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" was never sung by Billy Murray. It was instead Edward Meeker, who recorded the famous song in 1908.